The Middle East Channel

At the United Nations, President Obama calls on world leaders to fight extremism

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, calling for world leaders to stand up against violence and extremism and protect free speech in aspiring democracies. The speech was Obama’s first detailed response to anti-American protests in the Muslim world and an attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya sparked by a video ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, calling for world leaders to stand up against violence and extremism and protect free speech in aspiring democracies. The speech was Obama’s first detailed response to anti-American protests in the Muslim world and an attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya sparked by a video posted on YouTube deemed offensive to Muslims. The president said, "True democracy — real freedom — is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents." He continued that the strongest weapon against hateful speech "is not repression; it is more speech." Just six weeks before the November U.S. presidential election, Obama defended his handling of the 2011 Arab uprisings and contended with his opponent, Mitt Romney, who has criticized his foreign policy as being weak. On Iran, Obama stood firm, promising the United States would "do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," calling for a diplomatic solution but maintaining that, "Time is not unlimited." He failed to set the "red lines" repeatedly demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He countered Mitt Romney’s comment caught on tape that Palestinians aren’t focused on peace saying, "Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on a prospect of peace." Obama briefly touched on the conflict in Syria calling for the end of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but did not outline a course of action.

Two explosions hit army command in Damascus while U.N. debates Syrian crisis

Two massive explosions hit the Syrian army command headquarters in the capital city of Damascus on Wednesday at about 7:00 am sparking an exchange of fire. The attack came a day after opposition forces targeted a security headquarters in southern Damascus. It was the largest assault in the city since a July 18 explosion killed several high profile security officials, including the defense and interior ministers. According to Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoubi there were no casualties and the blasts were caused by two "large, highly explosive" improvised devices, one of which may have been placed inside the compound’s perimeter. Zoubi dismissed the attack saying, "There was a terrorist act, perhaps near a significant location, yes, this is true, but they failed as usual to achieve their goals." The Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) immediately took responsibility for the attack, and conversely claimed the attack killed dozens of people. Iran’s Press TV correspondent, Syrian Maya Nasser, was killed by a sniper in the clashes that followed the explosions. The Damascus bureau chief, Huseein Murtada, was also wounded. The 18-month long conflict has dominated discussion at the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting. U.S. President Barack Obama called for the end of the Assad regime and characterized Assad as "a dictator who massacres his own people." U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded international unity to end the civil war in Syria. And, Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani called for a unilateral Arab intervention. Up to this point, Qatar has been supplying arms to some sections of the FSA. 

Headlines  

  • Iran has unveiled what it has said to be a new "indigenous" long-range drone for carrying out reconnaissance and combat missions.
  • Tensions are rising in Libya as 10,000 people gathered to mourn the killing of one of the rebels involved in capturing Muammar al-Qaddafi.
  • Bahraini pro-democracy activist Zainab al-Kawaja, whose father has been sentenced to life, has been imprisoned for two months for involvement in protests and "inciting hatred against the regime."

Arguments and Analysis

A plea to protect schools in conflict zones‘ (Moza bint Nasser, The Financial Times)

"In Tal Rifat on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Aleppo, children have no school to go to. Their building, twice hit by air strikes in recent weeks, lies in ruins. Students in nearby Azaz are no better off; there is a military base where their school used to be. Outside the country’s borders, in the overcrowded camps in Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey, refugee children are lucky if they see a teacher.

Education has come under attack – not just in Syria but in every region of the world, from Afghanistan to Ivory Coast, Gaza to South Sudan. There are 28m children living in conflict zones who receive no education at all and attacks on educational establishments are on the rise. Despite explicit prohibition by international law, the sanctity of learning is violated daily."

Charlie Rose interview with President Morsi

Charlie Rose sits down with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for an hour-long interview.

Turkey’s Kurdish Calculus‘ (Soner Cagaptay, The Wall Street Journal)

"The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has made a bloody comeback in Turkey. According to a recent report by the International Crisis Group, PKK-related violence has killed some 700 people since the summer of 2011. This deadly toll recalls the horrors of the 1990s, when thousands of civilians were killed in PKK terror attacks and a brutal war in eastern Turkey between the government and Kurdish militants.

The resurgence of PKK violence is no accident. It is directly related to Turkey’s defiant posture in support of the Syrian uprising and against the Assad regime and its patrons in Iran. The upside for the West is that Ankara is starting to re-embrace its old friends in Washington."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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